In this film written and directed by Rashaad Ernesto Green, a Puerto Rican ex-con, Enrique, returns home to the Bronx to find that his wife Angela has had an affair while he was away, and his child is exploring a gender transformation that tests his notions of masculinity, gender, sexuality, and the bonds of family.
ASYNCHRONOUS ASSIGNMENT (Deadline: 10/5 before the class)
1. Watch the film Gun Hill Road (Rashaad Ernesto Green, 2011)
2. In the comment section down below answer ONE of the following prompts (175-words minimum).
In Gun Hill Road the different characters have their own distinct understanding of gender and sexuality. How the film addresses with nuance the topics of machismo, trans lives, and role definition within a Nuyorican family and Latinx community?
Discuss how performance poetry and her chosen queer community helps Vanessa navigate her gender transformation while she faces transphobia and bigoted views?
How lighting and the use of close-ups in this scene enhance the emotional struggles and ties of the different characters? Discuss both mise en scene elements and content.
Respectfully interact with ONE of your classmates’ responses. Do you agree with their points and interpretations? Do you disagree? What other observations about Gun Hill Road do you want to bring to the discussion?
20 thoughts on “Asynchronous Screening and Blog Post on Gun Hill Road”
In the film, Vanessa uses poetry as a way to express her feelings and inner thoughts. Her poetry as well as her appearance reflects where she is mentally. In the first performance that is shown Vanessa is in full glam and is living freely as her full self. The lines in her poem full of sass and confidence.This is at the beginning of her father’s return before he had discovered her transition. The second performance she is dressed in more masculine clothing and is wearing her now short hair. The poem she reads is more vulnerable and emotional. This is after her father had cut off her hair in the midst of a rage. In this way spoken word was a place she could be herself, at her best and at her worse. During her transformation she also had friends that were a part of the queer community who supported her. The movie often show them speaking openly about sex, homophobia and love. In one scene, they are seen parading around the streets voguing, cheering and laughing with each other. Showing that when they are together they are not afraid to be themselves.
Vanessa is a good example of the challenges that members of the LGBTQ+ face before they can truly come out and own who they really are. The fear of what other people might think of them leads them to take other avenues of refuge. For example, Vanessa uses poetry as her outlet to express how she truly feels. Poetry helps her to find inner peace, a place where she is not afraid to be herself.
Lighting and the use of close-ups in this scene enhance the emotional struggles and ties of the different characters in many ways. First, the use of dim lights in the room gives a feeling of tension which matches with the atmosphere in the room because of the conversation taking place in that scene of Enrique calling out his son’s behavior. The constant close-up of the characters serves to clearly portray the emotions they are going through and their reactions to the topic being discussed. The scene also enhances the characters by blurring everything in the background so there is more focus on them. It also blurs part of the character to which they are talking to highlight who they are addressing and avoid any confusion as they did when Michael was talking to his father. Even though the mother does not really say much during the scene her reactions/ emotions are constantly shown every time either the father or Michael says something. One can also see in the scene that all characters hair is in some way styled in a way that could show their whole face as is the case with the mother and Michael since they have semi-long hair, to better show the characters faces and be able to see their reactions and face expressions when they talk. The setting also plays a big part in this scene as its taking place at a dinner table at home instead of a public place in order to show that the conversation they would have is private and serious. However, they also made the decision of not showing what they were eating or what’s on the table to give more focus to the discussion taking place. Body language is also a big aspect of this scene. We can see how each character is feeling and how they express themselves by looking at their hands and body movements when they speak. In the case of Michael its shown how he expresses himself more like a female than a male because of his body movements when talking to his father which he later points out in the scene by stating “WhatsUp with your hands, man, put your hands down and talk to me like a man” (1:23).
Film techniques such as lighting and the use of close-ups serve different purposes, with the overall aim of helping the audience relate to the plot and characters of the film. Film directors pay close attention to aspects such as how far or near the camera is to an object or character and, the lighting of the scene, and the body language of the characters. All these elements are what make films livelier and help to elevate the overall experience of the audience
The lightning in the scene shows how frustrated each character is with one other. Enrique starts the conversation about baseball with Michael at the dining table, but he doesn’t show any emotions or make eye contact with his father. Enrique is frustrated because he tries to communicate with his son and understand his likes and dislikes, but Michael is not interested. The mother doesn’t speak much, but at one point, she and Michele make eye contact and smile at each other because she knows that he likes something else. At the end of the scene, Michele gets frustrated with Enrique because he doesn’t like that he brought up his sexuality and how he skipped school. At the end of the stage, Michele gets up and starts moving his hand around, and Enrique states, “WhatsUp with your hands, man, put your hands down and talk to me like a man” (1:23). Enrique shows Michael that he is frustrated and wants him to act like a man.
The lighting and use of close ups in this scene enhances the emotional struggles with the family. In this specific scene there is an automatic sense of seriousness and tension amongst them at the dinner table. Enrique is struggling to accept his son’: transition into a female. Vanessa is not shy to show anyone who she is now , however her father not approving makes her sad. This is all enhanced to the close ups at the dinner table. The camera zooms in on each character waiting for a response or reaction based on what was said at the table. The lighting in the room isn’t as bright as it is in normal settings. The dimming of the lights especially around the dinner table definitely brings tension. It starts off as a quiet room until Enrique starts posing his questions/concerns. The mother doesn’t really talk as much in this scene , but when she does the camera is close up and you can see her reaction to the conversation. In the scene Vanessa says she loves school and they both smile as the camera zooms in on Angie(mother). This shows that they have a better connection and understanding compared to Enrique’s relationship due to the fact that he wasn’t there to watch Vanessa grow as it’s later stated in the scene. Enrique’s reveals that he had his friend follow Vanessa around getting to know she skipped schools with her “faggot friends” when Vanessa then gets up and expressing her emotions more with hands . He points out that Vanessa should talk to him as a man and less as a female. This tension and argument is all matched with the setting of the scene.
In the film Gun Hill Road, we see a Nuyorican family struggle with accepting their child being transgender. From the beginning we see that initially Vanessa feels more comfortable at home with her family. However, once Enrique, Vanessa’s father, returns from prison her comfortability changes. Enrique tries to bond with Vanessa and pushes the ideas of what it means to be a man onto her. Enrique buys both of them baseball tickets, invites her to play baseball, and pushes the female body onto Vanessa, knowing that she isn’t interested. His intentions were that through his actions, it would change how Vanessa identifies. However, his acts only drew her away from her father.
Additionally, upon learning that Vanessa is part of the LGBTQ+ community, Enrique expresses feeling that Vanessa took away his opportunity to have a son and questions how others will view him. These scenes, in addition to the inclusion of anti-LBGT slurs, emphasizes the topic of machismo and the stigma that trans lives have among the Latinx community. Although we can see Angela, Vanessa’s mother, is more supportive of her child, she still is very submissive to husband Enrique. In one scene, Enrique cuts off Vanessa’s hair and although we see Angela is upset, she did nothing to stop him from cutting her hair. Throughout the film viewers do not see Angela confront Enrique, when she is clearly supportive of the person Vanessa is. This depicts the common idea of the family structure within the Latinx community and the notion that the man is seen as the head of the household.
I loved that you mentioned how women are supportive of their husbands despite not agreeing with them. That is very common in minority households where the mom is usually supportive of their children and are more open to adapting to modern issues and trends but at the end of the day they still have this mentality where the men are the ones who make the final decisions. Its a respect thing but also a hierarchal thing as this mentality that men dominate the house hold is still very much persistent today. That scene where Angela did not stop Enrique from cutting off Vanessa’s hair is a perfect depiction of this family structure. We also see that Angela never really mentions the fact that Vanessa is trans, but she does accept it. In this way its like she allows her to be who she is and accepts it but doesn’t fully support her because its not accepted within her community. The fact that Vanessa surrounds herself with people her age and within her community further exemplifies how the negative reaction and feelings towards people from the LGBTQ+ community and machismo is really a generational thing because as we saw in the film, people her age are supportive of her transition.
In this scene , vanessa is confronted by her dad for the way she is choosing to live her life. At the dinner table , angela, vanessa, and enrique show signs of uncomfort and confrontation. This is exemplified through their body language. Enrique seems hostile and this is noted when the camera cuts between him and Vanessa. It is even more amplified when he shouts at her. Both angela and Enrique are wearing dark colored clothing meanwhile Vanessa wears a red color shirt. This red color shirt makes her stand out from the yellow lightning of the living room ambiance. Since she is also the topic of discussion , the scene portrays her to be a passionate character who yells back and speaks up for herself. Although the living room is dimly lit, you are able to see all character’s expression very well. The use of contrast between the lighting shows the serious expression of all characters. It sets the mood for the use of homophobic remarks and negative energy. One last thing I noticed as well is the eye movements of this scene, the stares from Enrique are intense and make the viewer as if they are in the room with them.
In the film, we see many different roles and views that people had. These include machismo, trans lives, and role definition within the Latino community, and Nuyorican family. The father Enrique in this film represents the machismo role, as we saw throughout the film when he was having a hard time accepting his son’s being a trans. Even in the beginning of the film we see Enrique’s “machismo” when he beats up an inmate just for looking at him. In one scene where Enrique is talking to his son, he emphasizes that he raised him to be a “man”.
Other than Enrique and his machismo side, we see the group of people that Michael associates himself with. These people are his age and go to his school and are like Michael. This gives Michael a space where he can feel safe and fit in, as opposed to the streets where he is called names (in a scene where Michael is walking back home with his lover from a restaurant).
Lastly, we see Michael being a part of a Nuyorican family and a Latino community in the Bronx. Michael’s mother seems to know and understand the real person Michael is, a trans person. One thing that I noticed is that the mother never confronts Michael about being a trans during the film, it seems like she’s ignoring it. However, the mother at the same time respects Michael for who he is and is shown that she supports him, because throughout the film we see the mother try to stop and control Enrique when he gets angry at Michael for being his true self. In conclusion the Latino community and Michaels family “quietly” knows about Michael being a trans and accepts it respectfully, unlike Enrique.
The intensity in both their stares showed us that something was about to happen. There was a different energy in this scene portrayed by the close-ups in the camera frame. The camera zooms into their eyes showing the intensity and hidden anger just waiting to erupt. The camera frames change from person to person in a fast past that makes you realize that something isn’t right. When they talk together the atmosphere makes it seem like they don’t understand each other. Each person’s ideologies were different and they did not understand each other situations. The dim lights also indicate an unsettling feeling, you can feel the animosity just with the environment that they are in. Knowing from experience and eating at a small table with dim lights and a small room can lead to many different emotions. When both characters disagree or don’t relate to anything and realize they don’t have anything in common everything burst out. Each conflicted from living a traditional life and someone who lives in a new generation of people that are more accepting of someone’s sexual orientation makes it hard to communicate but being in a state of struggles with outside problems such as poverty and violence only makes it harder for people to understand one another.
A sense of seriousness, confrontation, relevance is portrayed all throughout this scene of the film. In this scene the use of camera angles, the lighting, different close up shots makes the scene more entertaining and intriguing. We can see the seriousness and importance of this scene because of the rising tension between the characters. In the dinner table, we can see the struggle that Enrique has in accepting his son’s transition into becoming the opposite gender. On the other hand, Venessa is not shy at all, as she is out there and wants to show everyone who she is as a person now. The tension can be felt on our own perspective through the use of different camera angles and cuts. The lighting isn’t as bright in this scene as the other scenes as it seems to be more dull and low. Angela and Enrique are on the darkest side of the costume aspect as they are both wearing black, while Venessa is wearing red. We can try to understand that Venessa and her mom, Angela, have a better connection compared to her relationship with her father solemnly to the fact that the camera portrays and displays aspects of them smiling while on the other hand it’s not the same with Enrique. Adding on, the lighting in the room and camera work is able to display the negative atmosphere in the dining room, as there is homophobic remarks and loud expressions amongst the family members.
The movie Gun Hill Road is a clear manifestation that in so many families in general there is still a machismo ideology in which men are raised and educated with the sole purpose of not being vulnerable and sensitive, to the extent of normalizing it and going unnoticed. During the film, it is clear that Michael’s mother tries to understand the sexuality of her son. On the other hand, it can be shown how Enrique’s machismo not being satiated by Michael’s level of virility and masculinity exerts acts of violence, discrimination, and rejection of everything that is related to femininity. A clear example of Enrique’s toxic machismo is demonstrated by aggressively cutting Michael’s hair against his will for the sake of just being long as well as deciding that by taking his son to a brothel and involving him sexually with a woman, Michael would become that virile man that he so longed for.
Furthermore, there is no doubt how Michael’s sexuality is influenced by the machismo of his father when he returns from prison: reaching a certain level of masculinity in order to not cause any conflict with him at home. Consequently, Michael unconsciously feels that his sexuality denigrates him as a person and that he should not be proud of the human being she is.
In the film, poetry helps Vanessa deal with her gender transformation. The first time she recites her poem, she’s dressed up and speaking with confidence. This shows that she was comfortable with herself and wasn’t being held back by anything. A lot happens in between her first and second performance. After her first performance, her dad came back and she wasn’t able to freely dress up the way she wanted to. She would have to hide the way she dressed to make sure that her dad didn’t see her. Before her second performance, her dad found out that she was going through a gender transformation. This made him cut her hair off and she was very upset. For her second performance, she was dressed in normal clothes with her now short hair. Instead of trying to cover up what happened to her, she decided to show it so that others could see that it’s not always going to be easy to deal with those who are transphobic. Although she showed a confident character during her first performance, her second performance showed the reality of how it was due to bigoted views.
prompt one In Gun Hill Road the different characters have their own distinct understanding of gender and sexuality. How the film addresses with nuance the topics of machismo, trans lives, and role definition within a Nuyorican family and Latinx community?
When discussing the roles of gender in the film we can look at the two main characters, the father and his transition daughter Vanessa. At the beginning of the film, we can view the transition from both the father and Vanessa. let me explain in the beginning we see the father in prison, and we are to infer that he was sexually assaulted in prison we can see that the slur he uses while attacking the man. When leaving prison, he feels as if he is less of a man and that the world is judging him and his masculinity. This is the conflict that he has with Vanessa, his transition daughter, he feels as if he himself is part of the Blame and that while dealing with his trauma he also is dealing with a very homophobic, machismo community in the form of his friends. although one of his friends tends to flip flop between sides. He himself cannot accept his daughter because he cannot accept himself and what happened to him. when we see Michaels/vanessa character, we see that she views herself as a woman although the world does not see her as one. we see this a lot in the Latin community because often being brought up in the community they do not teach you about mental health and sexuality or gender roles these topics are often taboo, and one is to always assume that the man is supposed to take care of the family and the women is supposed to cook and clean and to never question anything the husband says. we can see manifest in the fight with Michael and her father and mother when he yells, he is supposed to act like a man and be a man and cuts Michael’s/vanessa hair which she cries feeling as she lost her feminine side when her hair is cut. I think we can see there is also hope for Michael in the form of the poetry community and the mother’s ex-boyfriend where they accept her for who she is and all she wants to be. We can view these as the new views people are learning about the community and are being accepted
The film Gun Hill Road gives a pretty accurate representation of how machismo and gender roles play out in Latinx families and communities. In the film, Vanessa and her friends often had conversations about experienced homophobia, as well as the relationship Vanessa had with Chris, showing how rejected being trans is in the Latinx and Nuyorican community. The fact that Chris and Enrique were both ashamed to be publicly connected to Vanessa also gives in to the machismo aspect that infects the Latinx/Nuyorican community. Most conversations between Vanessa and her father resulted in him bashing her friends, the way she conducted herself, and even her friends. Instead of trying to understand her, Enrique wanted to quickly “fix” Vanessa and try to get her into “manly” things like sports and women. However, the way Enrique dealt with his own business also played into stereotypical machismo. His resolution always seemed to be violence and force, which we later discover he learned from his father. Vanessa’s mother was also expected to play the role of supportive wife to Enrique, every time he was faced with the reality that Vanessa identified as a woman and he tried to “correct” her choice, Enrique always looked to Angela for support and backing. This role women in Latinx/Nuyorican communities are expected to assume being greatly represented.
From my personal experience growing up, males are taught from a young age that they shouldn’t be playing with dolls but rather playing with action figures and participate in sports. In the film, the father sees his soon as a disappointment and gets frustrated to see what he has become while he was away. This portraying that all males should act like men (machismo). He does not approve of trans gender and in a scene while speaking to his friend that even though his son has his own life, that he doesn’t decide what he does.
Gun Hill Road has opened the doors to the understanding of how the Hispanic community has always viewed topics such as masculinity, sexuality/gender, trans, etc. In the beginning of the film Enrique has a heavy view of masculinity after spending three years in prison he had to build a persona of his own. In prison it is hard to overcome the extensive fighting and test of toughness therefore that is why Enrique has a heavy thought of masculinity. He in a sense had to defend himself all alone. As he returns home he finds himself fighting his original thoughts of masculinity as his son comes out as trans. It’s clear Enrique would have never supported his only son exploiting his sexuality but with his presence being gone Micheal expresses he has no say in what happens. The masculinity appears when Enrique wants Michael to hook up with a stranger to prove he is a man. The trans community is seen through the poetry readings Michael attends to de stress himself from the real world he is living in. The film also portrays the struggle of how the changing of a body is not easy as it seems with all the hormones as Michael is receiving injections
In the Latinx community most families are patriarch in which the male figure in the family is usually in charge of deciding what is “right” for the whole family. We could see that in Gun Hill Road when Enrique returns home, he returns to his role of head of the family making decisions and acting as if he hadn’t been gone for three years and everyone just went along with it because is a norm in our community. We also saw the machismo that is so common in the Latin community. One example is in the scene when Enrique is so insistent that Vanessa bat and then he later makes a comment about his nephew playing with a hula-hoop and how the child should play with a ball, as if sports and “boy” toys are what make a man which is a false narrative. Throughout the film we also see how machismo influences how the females in the family behave around Enrique. For example, the scene of when Enrique goes to cut Vanessa’s hair off is a very powerful one because although her mom is alright with Vanessa being herself, Angela puts up little resistance or attempt to defend Vanessa from Enrique which shows how submissive women are taught to be when it comes to the men in their life’s. The film was a great depiction of the out of date teaching and intolarence the Latinx community still faces.
Rashaad Ernesto Green’s 2011 film, Gun Hill Road, is a story of a transitioning family where a young man seeks to transform his sexuality in a biased, judgmental world. His relationship between the father and himself has tampered as a result of his sexuality. The film is situated in a neighborhood where the male characters are bigoted to machoism. As the protagonist and father to Michael, the antagonist, Enrique is so deep into the macho culture. However, the wife, Angela, supports the son and protects him from the father by being the peacemaker and holding the family together. The other characters depicted in the film to show the different understanding of gender and sexuality are Gloria, Pete, Tico, Hector, Jeanette, and Robin. They are friends with Enrique and Michael.
After a three-year prison stint, Enrique goes back home to find out that things are not the same as when he had left. His wife Angela had an affair with a man who loved his son as he is, but she hides it, and the son Michael explores sexual transformation beyond his father’s understanding and grasp. The film has addressed the issue of trans lives through the transgender character, Michael, when in front of the family and as Vanessa when performing at a local club with friends. Vanessa wants to come out as a homosexual and seeks an operation to change his sexual gender. Enrique discovers his son’s sexuality and tries to teach him sports, a macho thing, but he isn’t into sports. From how Enrique was raised, he clings to his masculine side, unable to accept his son being gay because of what he saw while in jail. Vanessa’s actions are parallel to that of his father, who faces a struggle to return to the father he was or risk losing his family and freedom as his parole officer is watching him. Enrique figures every way to solve and ‘cure’ his son, and one time when he finds a trunk in his son’s room full of female stuff, he decides to take him to a female prostitute and cut his hair off the one Michael hides in a baseball hat.
The film addresses the context of machismos by how the Latino men feel degraded by sons who don’t live up to societal and family expectations. When the sons or anyone deviates from the norm as a culture, they will smack you back into place. It also displays the casualness with which it puts a Hispanic transexual in a black male bed, and both communities are against homosexuality. Overall, the film addresses how the Latino communities and especially the patriarchal side express too much machoism. Fathers are seen as the pillar of the family and must make decisions that are to be followed by the family. The role definition within a Nuyorican and Latin community has been highlighted through the presence of a strong father figure in Enrique, who finally accepted his son regardless of the macho community they lived in.
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